D.C. Update – April 21, 2017


News from the States

Around the Agencies

In the News

Upcoming Events


News from the States

Fatal drug overdoses in Virginia increased 38 percent last year

Over 1,400 Virginians died from a drug overdose last year, amounting to a 38% increase in overdose deaths between 2015 and 2016. According to the State’s Health Department, this number may actually be even higher, because the cause of death has not yet been certified for 60 cases from 2016. In a Washington Post interview last week, State Health Commissioner Marissa Levine noted that the recent rise in overdose deaths is primarily attributable to heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil. Virginia has experienced a typical shift in drugs of use from prescription opioids to illicit opioids; a decade ago most drug overdose deaths were caused by prescription analgesics.

In 2016, Commissioner Levine issued a standing order to allow any Virginia resident to acquire the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone from a pharmacy. This year, the Virginia General Assembly has passed bills to legalize needle-exchange programs; further increase access to naloxone; change prescription policies; and provide services to infants exposed to opioids in utero. The NASADAD member from Virginia is Mellie Randall, Director of Substance Use Disorder Policy.

Read more about Virginia’s opioid crisis here.

New report estimates 71 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths in NY from 2010 to 2015

A report released by the Rockefeller Institute titled “The Growing Drug Epidemic in New York,” estimates a 71 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths from 2010 to 2015. The report notes that the opioid crisis is primarily impacting older adults in upstate and suburban areas, compared previous years when to New York City was the hub of opioid addiction. The largest overdose death increase was in Erie County, where the drug-related death rate grew 256 percent over the 5-year period. Other key findings include a higher overdose death rate among men compared to women, as well as a higher rate among Caucasians compared to African Americans and Hispanics.

The NASADAD member in New York is Arlene González-Sanchez, Commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), who serves on the NASADAD Board of Directors.

Read the full report here.

Around the Agencies

CDC launches online training series on opioid prescribing guidelines

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the first module of its online training series that aims to help clinicians apply the CDC’s opioid prescribing guidelines for adults with chronic pain. The first module offers an overview of the guidelines. Upcoming modules will address: communicating with patients; treating chronic pain without opioids; deciding whether to prescribe opioids; opioid dosing and titration; reducing opioid risks; assessing and addressing opioid use disorder; and implementing the guidelines in the practice.

Access the first module here.

CMS issues final rule to encourage stability in health insurance market for 2018

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final Market Stabilization rule. The rule aims to lower premiums and stabilize individual and small group markets and increase choices for individuals obtaining coverage in the Marketplace that was created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  In a press release, Administrator of CMS, Seema Verma, stated that, “CMS is committed to ensuring access to high quality affordable healthcare for all Americans and these actions are necessary to increase patient choices and to lower premiums.”

As outlined in the CMS press release, the final rule will make the following changes:

  • Adjust the annual open enrollment period for 2018 to more closely align with Medicare and the private market. The next open enrollment period will be November 1st– December 15th, 2017.
  • Require individuals to submit supporting documentation for special enrollment periods and ensure that only those who are eligible are able to enroll.
  • Allow issuers to require individuals to pay back past due premiums before enrolling into a plan with the same issuer the following year.
  • Eliminate duplicative review of network adequacy by the federal government; the rule will return oversight of network adequacy to States.


Access the final rule here.

GAO report, on CMS oversight efforts and importance of collaborating with States

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversight efforts and notes the importance of collaborating with States on oversight. The report notes that, “CMS reviews States’ efforts to reduce improper Medicaid payments, and encourages them to use collaborative audits—where CMS contractors and States work together to review the accuracy of payments made.” However, some States have reported barriers, such as burden on staff, to participating in collaborative audits. GAO also found that CMS needs to develop a more systematic approach to collecting information about State practices to reduce improper Medicaid payments.

Read the report here.

In the News

ATTC/NIATx Service Improvement Blog features post on drinking culture in Wisconsin 

The Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) and NIATx featured a post on their Service Improvement Blog about alcohol use patterns in Wisconsin.  In 2014, Wisconsin had the nation’s third-highest rate of adult binge drinking, and Wisconsin residents consume 143 more servings of alcohol than the average U.S. resident every year.

The blog post highlights the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project (WAPP), which was established to provide training and technical assistance to support organizations and local governments working to address unhealthy alcohol use. WAPP provides tools to communities to help them understand how to change their alcohol culture. The project focuses on the “Four A’s”—the four basic factors that shape the alcohol environment: Availability, Attractiveness, Affordability, and Acceptability. The blog post describes specific community initiatives that utilize tools from WAPP to foster a safer alcohol environment.

Read the full blog post here.

JAMA features article on key priorities for the future of health and health care

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently published an article titled, “Vital Directions for Health and Health Care: Priorities from a National Academy of Medicine [NAM] Initiative.” The article is the culmination of a NAM synthesis of 19 commissioned papers, supplemented by review and analysis of published data and research findings. The 19 papers identified eight vital policy directions necessary to the country’s health and fiscal future, including four action priorities. One of the priorities is “Better Health and Well-Being,” and within that category, authors note that one objective is to improve access to effective care for people who have mental health and substance use disorders. Authors conclude that the priorities outlined in this article will be “essential for achieving significant progress” in health and health care.

Access the JAMA article here.

Upcoming Events

ASAM hosts first Treatment Gap Awareness Week

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) will be hosting the first ever Addiction Treatment Gap Awareness Week next week, April 24th to 30th. The week will be dedicated to recognizing the gap in treatment for individuals with a substance use disorder. In observance of the week, ASAM is hosting a webinar to help physicians learn about the process of becoming certified and treating addiction.

Register for the webinar here.

Learn more about the Addiction Treatment Gap Week here.

Should you have any questions, or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Robert Morrison, Executive Director, or Shalini Wickramatilake-Templeman, Federal Affairs Manager, at (202) 293-0090.